MONTREAL — Three members of Montreal’s black community were awarded medals from Quebec’s National Assembly on Monday recognizing their contribution to Quebec society.
Noel Alexander, Fabienne Colas, and Benoit Songa were all recognized for their leadership and engagement in the black community.
“I wanted to seize this opportunity to pay tribute to the remarkable work of these three individuals,” said Kathleen Weil, Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion.
“They have all, through their work, contributed in the fight against racism and discrimination in Quebec, and have tightened the bonds that bring together Quebecers of all origins,” she added.
National Assembly medals are handed out at the discretion of ministers to recognize people of merit.
WATCH: Kathleen Weil hands out medals to members of Montreal’s black community.
Alexander arrived in Quebec from Jamaica in 1974. He was president of Montreal’s Jamaican Association for 35 years, and became an important spokesperson for Montreal’s English speaking black community.
As he accepted his medal of recognition, Alexander was quick to point out that the fight against racism and discrimination is not over.
“It is not always easy for the English speaking black community in Montreal,” he said. “We have 30 per cent unemployment in our community for young people between the ages of 18-24. We’ve lost some very bright young men because they chose to go into deviant behaviors. We’ve suffered killings, shootings, murders in our community because there was no employment, the lack of proper education and also parenting.”
“I urge you all, especially parents from our community, pay attention to your children, educate your children. They are the future.”
WATCH: Noel Alexander accepts his National Assembly medal
Colas, originally from Haiti, arrived in Montreal in 2003. A famous actor, producer and director in her home country, Colas is the director of the Fabienne Colas Foundation which promotes black cinema, arts and culture in Quebec. In 2005 Colas founded the Montreal International Black Film Festival.
As she accepted her medal, Colas shared that she was feeling discouraged about the fight for diversity just as she got the call from the minister’s office about the award.
“Diversity is worth fighting for, it is worth investing in diversity, this is the beginning,” an emotional Colas told the crowd. “The future is diversity.”
Songa agreed. He arrived in Quebec from the Congo in 1988 and in 2000 became the director general of the RIRE Centre, an organization that partners with the minister of immigration to help new immigrants integrate into Quebec society.
“Yes it is worth it,” Songa said to Colas. “You cannot be discouraged because diversity is worth it, it’s worth the fight.”